by JAVIER & SHANNAN LABRADOR, The Marriage Flippers
“Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married- Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married. Gee, I really love you And we’re gonna get married- Goin’ to the chapel of love.”
I likely aged myself, yet I remember that song, although it was written in 1964 by the Dixie Cups, nine years before I was born. I wonder if they had that name before there were actual Dixie cups we drank out of! It was a fun song filled with all the expectations and excitement of what marriage could be “Goin to the chapel of love.” I remember the day we were married, 30 years ago last month, and we were married in a chapel during spring in California. My wife and I were young, she was 19, and I was 20, and we had it all figured out, not! The truth is, we had no idea what we were doing. Yet there we stood, her in a frilly and flowing dress and me in a black tuxedo with a sad little excuse for a mustache running across my upper lip We stood face-to-face, exchanging vows and making promises to one another, promises which, at that moment, were not put to the test. After all, it was our wedding day, and although we exchanged vows and made promises, we like most people were thinking more about the wedding reception and watching Aunt Lila make a fool of herself on the dance floor.
I have officiated many weddings, and although I love standing with couples as they exchange their vows and make a covenant, which is what a marriage is built on, I have always thought the vows we take are not entirely based on reality. They should read more like this- “Here I stand with all my baggage, hurts, and brokenness. Tomorrow morning, I will not look this good!
It won’t always be easy, and I know we will go through hard times and moments when I am not your favorite person. We will undoubtedly experience deep valleys, and I can’t promise I will always say or do the right thing. I probably won’t. Oh yes, I also snore really loud and don’t like anyone telling me what to do. Are you all in?” Wouldn’t you agree? Those vows speak the truth of what your “I do” genuinely meant on your wedding day. Would you have said, “Yes, I am all in for that craziness? I DO!”
It’s soon, or maybe years after the wedding has passed, that you realize this one truth, a truth you did not fully understand on day one. In marriage, you don’t prove your promise at the altar. You prove your promise in the valley. It’s not at the altar where you show you’re all in. It’s in the middle of the valley- together.
Regardless of how you start, we will have seasons of marriage where we find ourselves standing in the valley, a place that seems so low and painful we can’t see how we will climb out of it. It’s in these moments that the promises we made are put to the test. Will we stand with one another and walk through the valley together- for better or worse, as we committed to? Will we choose to pick up the other and carry them through the difficult season- in sickness and health, as we committed to? Or will we decide to leave the other behind in the valley because this is not what we signed up for when we said, “I do?” The valleys will come, I promise you, and in the middle of the places we don’t want to be, we are called to stand with our spouse, once again face-to-face, and say, “I do commit to standing with you. I do promise to fight for you and us. I do vow to remain faithful to you. I do choose us- once again.”
The valleys we face in marriage are necessary. We are strengthened, stretched, and drawn closer to our spouses through them. And there is the keyword, through the valley. To experience the mountain tops in our marriage, we must go through the valley, not around it. Even in the valley, there is beauty. In the valley season, you find yourself today or will in the future; I encourage you to stand together, climb the mountain as one and prove the promise you made at the altar. Remember where you started and return to the “chapel of love.”